After a thorough four year steep in the classics, the ancients, the ordinary, and the extraordinary, I graduated from New College Franklin, May 2012. As a creative, my academic career was one of the most challenging times of growth in my life. I acquired the tools of diligence, persistence, failure, and determination to complete my program a different person than when I first stepped over the threshold.
After graduating, I was ready to begin a life in craft–my two great loves in beauty were eyeglass and shoe making. I battled between the two, but eventually pursued my first love, shoes. I found that love during my high school senior trip to London as I walked into John Lobb ltd on St. James Street. My foot tread over plush royal carpet; my eyes were first drawn heavenward at a wall-length glass and wooden case filled with gorgeous samples reaching ten or twelve feet high, next to a craftsman on his hands and knees recording the dimensions of a jolly man in a leather back chair–I’m told that my jaw was simply hanging at this point. Love struck, I continued to see more layers: a man in his 50’s shaping a last with a rasp, another man examining leather, and then a young man apprenticing. The apprentice gave me hope, a hope that I too might be able to learn under 150 plus years of tradition and craftsmanship.
My experience never left me. I dreamt of the opportunity and made steps towards a life in shoemaking by taking an intensive shoemaking course in 2010 with shoemakers, Carreducker (I highly recommend their class and respect their work as shoemakers and pioneers in reviving a dying craft).
Nearing graduation, I pursued John Lobb ltd for an apprenticeship. I began the journey through logistical and cultural hoops but in the end found all the apprenticeship spaces were filled for atleast two or three years. Devastated but not defeated, I kept the course; a few weeks later I was approached by Carreducker about an opportunity with the shoemaker Norman Vilalta in Barcelona, Spain.
Norman spoke of passion, love and beauty like no craftsman I have ever met. His words gave legitimacy to my own passions. I’ve learned that as a craftsman loses connectedness with universals, the particulars become mechanical. He encouraged me to explore a new frontier of maturity in my own life, as well as a frontier of the oldest makers in Europe. Our conversations rarely breached logistics, but waded in the waters of growth, love, maturity, self-discovery, dedication, and passion. I took his advice and planned a trip to London, Paris, and Barcelona. Equipped with backpack and map, I paid homage to London and Paris’ greatest makers of old. Eventually, I found myself in Barcelona conversing with Norman himself. Although we had not signed a contract before my departure, I was committed to a future in Spain. The anxiety of not knowing was overwhelming, but I forced myself to embrace the unknown.
The final fitting was to insure everything was perfect before using the raw material–to avoid waste-time-labor.
Below: I began to smooth out the cuts from the saw. Across the the bridge of the nose you can see a thinner spot on the left side-there was nothing to correct this mistake, and it made the frame very weak at the most critical point of stability. I ended up testing the horns flexibility to breaking point. I could have worked with the flex, but I could not live with the possibility of them breaking once the client had been wearing them for some years down the road. Below: Restart-the interior cuts.Below: I learned my lesson the difficult way when cutting out the pattern. In this photo you can see the lesson learned as I have drawn a pattern around the pattern-giving myself a millimeter of cushion.Below: I really like this photo. Here you see the raw frame cut out-the lines around the bridge of the nose are noticeably still puffy from the cushion I allowed while cutting. I will take my files with precision and file everything down to the exact pattern. Below: The temples cut out. Below: Filing has begun-right side is filed-left side still has the cushion. And somehow the pattern got wet-I think was raining that day or maybe the sweat from so much filing!
Below: The frame and temples have both been filed down to the the exact pattern-then shaped in order to take away the 90 degree angle.Below: Getting a bath from all the dust! The water accentuates all the vibrant variegated coloration. Below: Time to make them functional-the part that keeps me up at night is carving the reservoir for the hinges to sit in. A false angle=a improper fit for the client.Below: The reverse side.
Below: Holes for the rivets-drilled with a mini pin vise hand drill.
Below: The rivets needed to be filed to just under a millimeter above the surface so that when they are hammered they form a nice neat mushroom-top over the surface of the horn in order to properly and permanently secure the hinges.Below: Drilling the holes.Below: The hinges are set! This pair has yet to be polished in this picture. Below: Their first meeting. Thank you for walking this journey with me. I hope you have enjoyed watching me learn and grow-and seeing the process unfold before your eyes. My greatest joy as a craftsman is seeing something grow from paper patterns to a finished wearable functioning piece.
The journey has only begun-new blogs on the next step in this adventure will be coming soon.
The wire grid frame worked like a champ. It served to give me exactly what I needed, which was a direct reference. It was 1/4′ chicken wire–I would like to find smaller wire mesh, but I couldn’t find a supplier who would sell me less than eight feet of it and at ten dollars a foot, a little too expensive for me right now.
The modeling clay across the bridge of the nose gives me a direct reference of his arc that translates to paper.
I have begun to mark his measurements above.
Translating his measurements to paper.
First attempt to make a pattern according to some rigid guidelines.
I’ve rounded the structural elements of the frame, creating a frame that meets the design aesthetic of my client.
All the patterns at first glance all look very similar, but if you look carefully you can find little details that change in each picture. The last photo’s second pattern is the pattern I’m going to try on my client. As you can see the bridge of the nose has softened, and also somethings that are not as easily noticeable are the height of the bride of the nose has moved up about 2 millimeters in order to bring the frame lower on the face, also the width of the oval has widened.
Hope you have enjoyed! We will be having another fitting this week, and then proceed into the actual making… Only 5 weeks until the project is due!
The last month has proven altogether difficult in the area of frame fitting. This difficulty became evident when the prototype frame I made for my client did not fit in any form or fashion…
Here are some pictures from the process of creating the prototype frame:
The picture above is a myriad of concept sketches–the graph paper is a sketch of the actual measurement from my client I used to create the prototype frame, which failed.
Above: cutting out the cardboard frame.
The prototype frame is made from two layers of a, Billy Ried, present box, which i have found to be excellent cardboard! (Don’t tell anyone but thats the same cardboard I use for the covers when I book-bind). Anyhow, the prototype frame, even if it fits right, is not something of beauty. There are no slight contours that enhance dimensionality or variegations of color. Its purpose is to give me a point of reference. Likewise, my prototype did serve its purpose to give me a point of reference and I am reluctant to show the picture because it fit incredibly poorly, but I’ve already promised to show you everything. Obviously, this is a learning process for me and I have never made more than one pair of glasses and only for myself. If I am to produce a professional bespoke product I have to be exact, at least to the best of my human abilities. My first approach in creating a frame for an individual was resting in hope and dream that the measurements would translate into a perfect frame, and they didn’t…
As you can see the length of the bridge of the nose is off, the width of the arc across the nose is to large in diameter and does not sit low enough, the the frame sits about a 1/4 of an inch too high, covering the eyebrows, etc. Also, the circular frame in its essence is bold, it makes a statement. A statement is not necessarily the goal of my client, which is why we are going to transistion into a softer design, something more approachable, i.e. the oval.
This pattern was in the making and hashed out before the second fitting, otherwise there would be a different length of the bridge of the nose, etc. This gives you an idea of what I will design in the next week.
Also, my client was able to choose the desired variegation of water buffalo horn from the four pieces I recently aquired:
The second fitting was a learning experience. I hit a large wall in the whole process of fitting the face. Leaving the second fitting I was pretty defeated, and it took almost a week and a half of problem solving to come up with a more precise technique than what I had been practicing. I discovered a solution when I was having a conversation with a friend. I explained to him the second fitting and how the prototype frame was poorly measured and how I lacked a means to translate proper measurements…in an exhale of exasperation I said, “If only there was something I could use, like a grid to see the proportions of the face…” Then it hit me! (I later thanked my friend for the idea) In my art class at New College Franklin, my teacher, Mr. Caleb Faires, had mentioned a tool used to see proportion in sketching landscapes, human forms, etc., essentially a piece of cardboard with a square or rectangular window that is lined with a wire grid. Holding this wire window at the same distance while sketching would allow you to see relationship of proportion the way it really is and not how your mind thinks it is. This concept was the beginning of how I knew I needed to measure the face. My first idea was creating exactly what I had known, a wire window to put up to the face, but this wouldn’t work since the face is three dimensional. The paradigm of the grid eventually led me to what I have to decided to test, the wire grid frame:
This wire frame on the face will allow me to see every critical dimension: I will be able to mark the heights of the eyebrows, width of the face, width of the eyes, the height of the pupils, length from the prominence of the face to the back of the ears, the distance of the eyelashes to the frame, and much more. The nature of the wire frame will translate to paper perfectly with the many holes in the grid. As soon as next week I will be able to test my idea and see if it works!
Right now I’m in the process of making the grid frame, next week I will post the process and hopefully a third fitting, as well as a blog of all the tools I use.
As promised here are some pictures of a side project: two chairs I reconstructed and upholstered for, Billy Reid:
Hope you enjoyed! Advice and questions are welcomed.
Over the course of my studies in liberal arts, and in the craft of bespoke goods I have learned that there is no man who is too large, or too small, or too round, or too flabby, but only men who need good tailors. A great tailor can take any man who may be short and make him tall, or very round and house him with pronounced shoulders and a contoured waist, or a man lacking any shape at all and make him into respectable Count by accentuating the natural contours of the human figure. Many can understanding human proportions but few can master the ability to manipulate proportion in order to create a visage worth remembering.
Below is a picture I found on, The Sartorialist, that serves as an example of accentuated human proportions, specifically in the waist and narrowed shoulders–these two proportions make this man look distinguished and well put together.
What does all this have to do with eyeglasses? Proportion, proportion, proportion. It is by proportion of the human composition and my knowledge of the anatomical structure of the face, as well as, dimensional instinct I will use to create a pair of eyeglasses that best suits the face of my new client, Dr. George Grant, hereto, now referred to as “the client”:
In our first fitting he explained to me his ideal pair of eyeglasses: something more round with extensions on the sides in order to fit the width of the face without rubbing against his temples. Anyone who has had temple-rubbing frames will attest that it is extremely uncomfortable.
My concept sketch below is rough, but serves to flush out an idea:
My client, agreed in the design direction he wanted me to go; the next step was to take his measurements including temple to temple, ear to ear, bridge of the nose, and length from the prominence of the face to behind the ear.
The steps for making an eyeglass pattern is very personal for me. First, I start to sketch the general movement of the frame, whether circular, oval, rectangular or square, and then feel out the specific movements of each line down to the thousands of an inch. Sometimes I move one line slightly convex or concave, and the entire composition frame changes. I journey on this process of finding exactly what is most pleasing to my eyes and then seek approval from the client.
So far my initial concept pattern is such:
This initial concept pattern may very well change along the way. Even though it may change, my intentions are to take you through each step of the process even if it is a learning experience for me. The world of bespoke is perpetually changing client to client; no one human is exactly the same. I will have to learn and adapt quickly to varying facial structures and also be prepared to scrap almost finished products if they aren’t correct. Pursuit towards perfection is what I strive for, but not at the expense of using a laser cutter or other extensive machines because in doing so you loose what makes handmade products so valuable, the human element.
For those interested in the term, “bespoke”, I have carefully attempted defining it:
Bespoke-(pronounced bee-SPOHK) is a term used in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for an individually-or custom-made product or service. Bespoke is a form derived from bespeak, which was used as early as 1583 to refer to the ordering of goods. Bespoke and the phrase made to measure are often used interchangeable, but a very clear difference is that made to measure is a process of taking measurements from a client and applying those measurements to a pre-existing pattern in order to create a product. Whereas, bespoke means to take the measurements of an individual and create a specific pattern for that individual in order to create an exceptional product.
This year my senior year at New College Franklin and my thesis is the pursuit bespoke eyeglass making. I decided to create a blog in hopes to aid in my research and goal to reach the community concerning a true knowledge of craft and quality. One of my advisors, George Grant, has willingly sacrificed his face to serve as my first client. He has promised to critique me on a professional level as if he were paying good money for this pair of frames. His constructive criticism will allow me to push myself to deliver a professional product in a reasonable amount of time.
This blog will catalogue my every step to making his frames, unique in every detail, and personal in every thousandths of an inch. Blood, sweat, and tears go into each pair of frames–a product guaranteed to be unique, personal, comfortable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing. Join me as I pursue a forgotten craft and please feel free to ask questions–lots of pictures and descriptions soon to come, and more than likely other creations besides eyeglasses!